Stereotypes and Adversarial Justice in Rape Trials

  • Olivia Smith


The previous two chapters have begun to demonstrate how rape myths and sexual history evidence dismiss survivors as ‘irrational’ or ‘non-credible’. This chapter now seeks to show how wider gendered narratives are used to justify and reinforce these arguments, adding to the cultural scaffolding outlined in Chap.  3. This is not to say that male survivors are considered credible and rational, only that the narratives observed relate to wider stereotypes about women, and further research is needed into the trial narratives about male survivors. Nor does it mean that women are a homogenous group; the chapter will also unpack the, albeit limited, observation data on intersecting stereotypes about ethnicity, social class, and disability. Despite women having complex and nuanced lives, the trials were remarkably consistent in depicting them as delusional, vindictive, or capricious and childlike, all of which are rooted in a stereotype of women as emotional. In order to understand how such narratives were justified by barristers, it is important to examine the adversarial imperative to win and acknowledge the impact of the burden of proof. In doing so, this chapter reveals the multiple inequalities that are both a symptom and a cause of court responses to rape, providing new empirical insights that can further debates in adversarial jurisdictions.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olivia Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesAnglia Ruskin UniversityCambridgeUK

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